David Turpin, second from right, and his wife, Louise, far left, sitting in a courtroom with their lawyers, Allison Lowe, second from left, and David Macher Friday, feb. 22, 2019, in Riverside, California. The California couple who chained some of their 13 children to bed and starved, they have pleaded guilty to torture and other forms of abuse. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, Pool)
RIVERSIDE, California. – A California couple who chained some of their 13 children to bed and starving them in what was called a “house of horrors” pleaded guilty Friday to torture and other forms of abuse that lasted for a year.
David and Louise Turpin fed from the resources in Riverside County Superior Court to 14 counts that included cruelty to their 12 oldest children and imprisoning them in a house that turned out to be neatly maintained from outside, but was festered with filth and reeked of human waste.
The couple was arrested in January 2018 if their 17-year-old daughter called 911 after escaping from the house of the family in the city of Perris, about 60 miles (96 km) southeast of Los Angeles.
The children, who ranged in age from 2 to 29 at the time, were severely underweight and had not been washed for months. Some of the children had stunted growth and wasting of the muscles, and described being beaten, starved and caged.
David Turpin appeared stoic as he pleaded guilty, but Louise’s face turns red and she began to cry and dabbed her eyes with a tissue during the hearing.
The two face a sentence of 25 years to life if they are to be sentenced April 19, Riverside District Attorney Mike Hestrin said.
“The defendants ruined lives, so I think that it is just and fair that the sentence is equivalent to the first-degree murder,” Hestrin said.
He said that the guilty pleas were important for the protection of the children from having to testify in a trial.
The couple had faced with dozens of additional counts when they went to court. During a preliminary hearing, a judge threw out one count in which their 2-year-old daughter, to find she was the only child who will not be victims of abuse.
In a recording of the 911 call played in court last year, the girl that escaped said two younger sisters and a brother were chained to their bed and they could not take it any longer.
“She will wake up at night and she starts to cry and she wanted me to call someone else,” she said in a high voice. “I wanted to call y’all, so y’all can help my sisters.”
The intervention of the government meant a new start for the 13 Turpin descendants who lived in such isolation that the teenager who called for help did not know her address and some of her brothers and sisters didn’t even understand the role of the police when they arrived at the house.
Two girls of 11 and 14, was hastily released from their chains, when the police came, but a 22-year-old son was enthralled.
The young man said that he and his brothers and sisters had, was suspected of stealing food and disrespectful, a detective testified. The man said he was tied up with ropes at first, and then, after learning to wriggle free, restrained with larger chains on and off over a period of six years.
Authorities say that the children were deprived of food and other things children take for granted, such as toys and games, and could do little except write in their journals.
Although the parents filed reports with the state that they home schooled their children, the oldest child, was finished only in the third grade, and a 12-year-old could not say the full alphabet.
The children had never seen a dentist and only one child showed to be seen by a doctor after a fracture of a jaw.
A researcher who testified that some suffer from severe malnutrition and muscle wasting, including an 11-year-old girl who had arms the size of a baby. The 17-year-old who had difficulty with pronouncing certain words, and spoke like a much younger child.
The children were rarely allowed outside, although she went on Halloween and went as a family to Disneyland and Las Vegas, researchers said. The children spent most of their time locked in their rooms, except for the limited meals or using the bathroom.
All children were hospitalized immediately after they were discovered. Riverside County authorities then obtained a temporary conservatorship more than the adults.
Hestrin said that he had had with all the children and was impressed by the resilience that they had shown. He said that they would be given the opportunity to speak at the sentencing.
“I was very struck by their optimism, their hope for the future, their future,” Hestrin said. “They have a zest for life and a great smile and I am optimistic for them and I think that is how they feel about their future.”
Associated Press reporters John Antczak and Brian Melley in Los Angeles contributed to this report.